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FIFA World Cup: Russia 2018

Aliou Cisse –The Brave Maker of Big Decisions, Shoving Aside Egos

Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse is not shy of making controversial decisions.

Prophets of gloom and doom were at it this past Tuesday when coach Aliou Cisse made public his line-up for the Poland battle. There was no captain fantastic Chiekhou Kouyate –the man who muscled the workload and under whose leadership the Teranga Lions qualified to the World Cup. Then another chasm showed with star-man Diao Balde Keita also axed from the line up and made to contend with a place on the bench, something all too peculiar to the Monaco marquee buy.

Many by now had assumed the gaffer to be going bonkers. But Cisse wasn’t done with his festival of surprises –dropping Moussa Konate also. No one striker has plundered in more goals than the Amien SC front-man. Only Sadio Mane comes close on ten leagues goals for Liverpool.

None of the preferred starters for the Poland game from match-winner Mbaye Niang, Ismaila Sarr to Mame Biram Diouf nears Konate’s overall 13 domestic league goals.

But a ruthless gaffer Cisse was having none of it and determined as he was, the dreadlocks man stood by his choices convinced of their effectiveness.

While all these gambles later proved successful, Cisse’s bold stance to demote captain and English Premier League player Kouyate to the bench, replacing him with a man cutting it in the second tier of the same country, drew lot of eyebrows.

Flip the coin and imagine this scenario at Spain –benching Sergio Ramos for a coaching decision – all hell will break loose. The mere thought of it alone perhaps should be enough recipe to ignite dressing room acrimony. Yet is what Aliou did and not a statement of uncomplimentary remark emanated from any of the Senegalese players.

Photo: Cisse is not shy of making controversial decisions

Photo: Cisse is not shy of making controversial decisions

A Gattuso-like hard-man in his heydays as a footballer, the 42-year-old’s footmarks on the current Teranga Lions set up is apparent. How he marshalled the West Ham United midfielder speaks volume of the complete control without interference he enjoys.

Another talking point was his insistence to continue upgrading Khadim Njie on his pecking order. The gaffer is spoilt for choice regarding matters between the sticks. He opted for Khadim, a goalkeeper plying his trade with Guinean champions AC Horoyaa ahead of Alfred Benjamin Gomis and Abdoulaye Diallo.

Both Gomis and Diallo are regulars for SPAL in the Serie A and Rennes in the French Ligue 1 respectively. Despite with an agility of a teenager, Njie does not possess the experience his competitors boast of.

A coach being granted unfettered freedom concerning selection of players in our part of the continent is unheard-of with federation heads often known to impose decisions and preferences on coaches. However, it’s a different tale with Cisse’s rapport with the Senegalese Football Federation bosses. This perhaps goes to explain reason for no fall outs being reported between the former player and his superiors even after three years on the Lions’ managerial portfolio, a hot space for previous occupants of the job.

Having faced no criticisms for dropping Kouyate in the first encounter, it’s being anticipated the only Black African coach in Russia would again call the shots and have all egos to his pockets against Japan today.

It’s a well-shared belief a winning coach doesn’t alter his formation, a mantra of which could translate as Chiekhou having to sit on the bench again.

If this assertion turns out to be the case, how long will it continue then will make for an interesting reading in coming games.

For now, love or loath it, it is the Aliou Cisse show.

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